Tuesday, October 04, 2016


Mike Schirtzer from MORE writes about his first two meetings as a member of the UFT Executive Boarad representing the high schools. MORE-New Action won the high school seats in the 2016 UFT election. It is the first time since 2007 that non-Unity endorsed voices are being heard.

By Mike Schirtzer

My initial reactions after having participated in my first two meetings as an elected high school representative to the UFT Executive Board as a member of the MORE Caucus. 

UFT Members have not been informed on what was going on at  Executive Board meetings other than cursory minutes. We are trying to change that by posting detailed minutes and analysis on our blog, linking to it in our weekly updates and having a section of our newsletter dedicated to it. 

Issues that impact the day to day working conditions of UFT members and learning conditions for our students are not the focus of the agenda from Unity Caucus. The 7 of us from MORE/NA are all classroom teachers and will fight for these issues. MORE/NA is willing to engage in meetings with leadership to address abusive administrators, DOE meeting with chapter leaders on class-size, forcing Unity to discuss ATRs, paid parental leave and school funding are steps in the right direction. This is a 3 year term and we must do everything we can to best represent the working educators of the UFT. 

I approach my upcoming 3-year term with the attitude that we are not there to embarrass the leadership, but to challenge and find ways we can work together with the Unity Caucus' UFT officers to address issues of concern to the membership. But if we have to embarrass them to force them to act we will.

One thing we promise is that we will report honestly and openly so we provide the membership with insights on what has generally been a black box of mystery.

Setting the scene
There are 101 members of the UFT EB including the 12 officers. Other than the elected 7 high school MORE/New Action reps, the other 89 are all in Unity Caucus and who adhere to all decisions made by the leadership and vote as a block.

Many members of the UFT Executive Board – if not the majority – are not classroom teachers. There is a large group of retirees and many district reps and other UFT officials. Certainly few are in the classroom full-time. Thus they are not part of the daily routine that goes on in schools they supposedly represent. The 7 of us from MORE/NA are all classroom teachers and come face to face with the issues of concern to UFT members in our schools.

• There is a pre-meeting 10-minute opportunity for the general UFT membership to speak. At the first meeting 4 members of MORE shared the time to speak about working under abusive principals and the general lack of push-back from the union. There was no reaction from the Unity Caucus members.

• UFT Secretary Howard Schoor opens the meeting by reviewing the previous meeting minutes and approving them. Afterwards there’s a question period, followed by Mulgrew’s president report, followed by reports from the districts and then the business part of the meeting which includes discussing proposed resolutions. The official UFT resolutions have been passed by the 12-member AdCom which meets every Friday.

• UFT President Michael Mulgrew doesn’t show until his report and leaves soon after. The Executive Board is supposed to be the one highest bodies of our union, yet the president of our union sees fit leave after his brief report. The questions that Executive Board members ask and the open mic period for rank and file members does not seem to be of any concern for him.
Note: As per past Executive Board representatives from ICE/TJC : (MORE's predecessors) when Randi Weingarten was president she chaired the meeting and stayed the entire time.

• The only report of substance is from UFT Legislative Director Paul Egan who is a great speaker. Agree with him/Unity caucus or not, he brings a thorough report on the presidential election, endorsements, and justification of those endorsements. I only wish school based issues were taken on with as much vigor as Paul tackles politics. Most other reports from the districts, often by district reps, are about organizing for charities or UFT sponsored celebrations, not about the issues going on in the districts.

Thoughts on the 2 meetings I attended so far
• During the question period only the 7 members of MORE/NA have asked questions on the following topics: Abusive Administrators, ATRs, School Funding, Paid Parental Leave, and Class-size are issues, none of which were addressed in the reports by Unity Caucus members.

• At the first meeting, four rank and file speakers and one retiree, all associated with MORE, spoke about their terrible experiences in schools due to abusive administrators. We brought a resolution to Executive Board calling for removal of abusive administrators. I raised it and then MORE/NA Executive Board member Marcus McArthur further motivated by sharing his own experience with a bad principal who openly attacked the chapter leader. It was tabled by Unity Caucus’ leader and Assistant Secretary Leroy Barr, but he agreed to meet with us to work on next steps for addressing this matter. We need to insure that UFT members have the organized defense they need. This meeting should be within the next 2 weeks, updates will follow.

• Class-size: MORE/NA High School Executive board member Arthur Goldstein reported there over-packed classes all over Francis Lewis High School where he is the chapter leader. He also stated there are similar conditions all over Queens high school. UFT leadership agreed to set up a meeting with Arthur, Queens high school chapter leaders, and personnel from DOE to address this issue. Updates to follow.

• ATRs- Former Canarsie High School chapter leader and MORE/NA Ex Bd member Kuljit (KJ) S. Ahluwalia had a first-hand experience of closing school policy and excessing when Canarsie High School was closed down. He has spoken at both meetings about the plight of ATRS. He as asked for data on the teachers currently still in the ATR pool (age, race, license) and what is being done to alleviate the problem. UFT Secretary Howie Shoor, President Mulgrew, and Amy Arundell all gave answers to KJ, not specifics, but generalities such as “ATRs are at the lowest since I been here”, Mulgrew and Arundell reiterated that sentiment.

• Funding- Jonathan Halabi, the only member from MORE/NA that was elected to the previous term, brought up a New Action initiated resolution that passed the Ex Bd a couple of years back calling for UFT to pressure DOE to end the practice of “charging” principals more for experienced teachers. This means that schools that have veteran staff are punished by having less funding for after school programs, less guidance counselors and packed classes. The principal must use those funds to “pay” the staff. 

I spoke to this as well, by explaining that this is the situation in my school and it has a negative impact on our chapter. Mulgrew and Schoor both said they would keep pressure on DOE and bring it up at their next consultation meeting with Chancellor Farina. They did say that this is not a contractual bargaining matter, but Mulgrew admitted NYC is one of the few, if not the only school districts in the US that still uses this system. Most school districts assign staff based on number of students, ex. 1 teacher for every 25 students, 1 guidance counselor for every 200 students, etc. I sent my principal’s full budget to Secretary Schoor and we are awaiting his response.

• Paid Family Leave- Ashraya Gupta MORE/NA UFT Ex Bd member brought up that Mulgrew has previously talked about UFT members getting paid parental leave. She spoke of our union being mostly women, many of whom are primary-caregivers and how it is unfair that we do not have this basic human right of paid parental leave yet. She asked what is our union’s position and progress on this matter. Schoor said the city’s non-unionized staff who receive this benefit had to give back money and days off, “the city will give us nothing for free”. Schoor did not articulate what our position is, yet the Delegate Assembly expressed we do not want any give backs.

The next EB meeting will be Monday Oct. 17, two days before the Delegate Assembly. Feel free to join us. If you wish to speak at the pre-meeting 10 minute time call Howard Schoor's office at the UFT 212-777-7500. Let us know if you are coming.

Arthur Goldstein has published minutes on his blog following each session which we have replicated on the MORE site. Arthur, me, and MORE/NA members will continue to report on these meetings and other contacts with the leadership.

Reports of the meetings can be found on MORE's site.


Anonymous said...

Awesome report. The curtain has finally been open on how much Unity cares only for its self and not the rank and file teachers. Looking forward to more info on how the new evaluations are going to work. Please keep us informed. This is the most pressing topic for the teachers at my school in the Bronx.

Anonymous said...

None of the 7 is retired?

ed notes online said...

They are elected by the high school teachers and could only run if they are high school teachers.
See my commentary on the UFT Ex Bd and Mike's statement at ed notes: http://ednotesonline.blogspot.com/2016/10/commentary-mike-schirtzer-view-from-uft.html

Anonymous said...

A little known pension perk available only to New York City teachers cost taxpayers an astonishing $1.2 billion last year, a watchdog group reported Wednesday.
The sweet deal guarantees that teachers who sock away money for retirement in a special Tax Deferred Annuity (TDA) receive a 7 percent annual return. In stark contrast, banks currently pay depositors just 1 percent or less on most savings accounts.
And city taxpayers are the de facto guarantors for the high rate of return — on the hook to make up the difference if the annuity falls short of the guarantee.
Knowing a good thing when they see it, increasing numbers of teachers are stashing their cash in the no-lose annuity, the Citizens Budget Commission found.
It said that there are now 137,000 participants in the plan, including 51,000 retirees. But only 3,000 are drawing on their funds.
The rest, according to the commission, are watching their nest eggs grow at a fixed rate available to no other city employee.
And that’s over and above the teachers’ regular pensions.
“You don’t get a guaranteed rate of return with your 401(k). But teachers do” in that special annuity, said CBC research director Charles Brecher.
“It’s a good, positive math lesson for teachers. It’s a bad, negative math lesson for taxpayers. The teachers get this huge taxpayer subsidy. The city should treat the teachers like everyone else.”
Former city labor director James Hanley said the guaranteed 7 percent — which he negotiated down from 8.25 percent in 2009 — is indefensible.
“Nobody else has such a system. This is a little ridiculous. It’s tough to sustain in the long term,” Hanley warned.
The annuity is a voluntary program to supplement traditional government pensions.
Other city employees have them — without the guaranteed 7 percent return.
The sweet deal kicked in when the state Legislature in 1988 allowed teachers to designate all or part of their pension contributions to the fixed-return fund, which at that time was paying 8.25 percent, then close to the return of federal-government bonds.
After the 2008 stock-market crash, the fixed-rate option grew in popularity. In 2007, the annuity fund stood at $7.4 billion. Last year, it held $18.7 billion.
Taxpayer subsidies have also grown, from $238 million in 2007 to $1.2 billion last year.
The CBC urged the city to end the 7 percent guarantee, particularly for new hires.
The CBC pointed out that while government pensions are protected by the state Constitution, the annuity isn’t.
Any changes would require taking on the powerful teachers union.
Mike Mugrew , president of the United Federation of Teachers, argued that taxpayers have actually come out ahead.
“The CBC report neglects to mention that over the last 25 years, the city has actually made a profit from this fund, since its investment returns over that period have exceeded the guaranteed rate of return promised by the TDA,” he said.
Mayor de Blasio’s office had no immediate comment.

James Eterno said...

Mike Mugrew , president of the United Federation of Teachers, argued that taxpayers have actually come out ahead.
“The CBC report neglects to mention that over the last 25 years, the city has actually made a profit from this fund, since its investment returns over that period have exceeded the guaranteed rate of return promised by the TDA,” he said.
Mayor de Blasio’s office had no immediate comment.

Buried at the bottom. The Post is so full of you know what.

James Eterno said...

Any changes would require taking on the powerful teachers union.

The Post writes fiction. I am still laughing at that line.